Holiday Shopper Survival Guide

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holiday-shopping-guideReady or not, the holidays are right around the corner. If you plan to fight the crowds at Walmart to snag a bargain-priced 60” flat screen TV, you’ll have to look elsewhere for survival tips. Our advice is geared to help you survive this joyful season with your data intact. It could be easier than you realize.

 

Credit or Debit?

Credit card usage jumps this time of year, and there are some good reasons to say, “Charge it.” They include simplified returns, free extended warranties, and deferred payments. With the advent of credit card chips, fraud at the cash register has been on the decline, so we may not see another massive breach like Target or The Home Depot® this holiday season.

Yet credit cards are better than debit when it comes to correcting fraudulent withdrawals. If a hacker compromises your debit card, you could end up with a negative balance overnight. How will you pay the rent or the mortgage while the bank investigates? They’re legally allowed to take up to 10 business days to restore your funds. Leave your debit card home if you have a choice.

 

On Guard Online

As more shopping dollars go to online retailers, there’s still the risk for compromised credit card fraud. With ‘card not present’ buying, your chip card won’t stop the fraudsters. In Europe when chip and PIN cards were adopted several years ago, online fraud soared.

It could be your individual card fraud or a complete system breach. The latest online store to be hit is Eileen Fisher, a women’s wear retailer, that just reported a network intrusion that lasted close to six weeks. Look out for any odd quirks in online ordering. Glitches could indicate the site is under attack.

If your card number is compromised online, you’ll be glad you spent time setting up card alerts. Many banks encourage these alerts that will email or text you if large purchases are charged. Some will alert you of every purchase made. It’s the ideal way to spot unauthorized use before the fraud piles up.

 

In The Inbox

A favorite phishing scam at holiday time is the email that offers the latest iPad Pro for $50 or a massive TV for $75. Don’t even think about clicking on those links. You could end up with malware on your computer that records every key you touch. Hackers just sit and wait until you access your bank or credit card account.

 

No, Thanks!

Your ZIP Code may seem innocent, but it’s one more way to identity you. Don’t share it. Everything from voting records to retail marketing plans seeks that data. Firmly say, “No, thanks,” to requests for your email address or ZIP Code.

 

Alert in Line

Checkout lines build up at this time of year, especially on Black Friday. Keep an eye out for overactive smartphones. They could be snapping photos of your credit card data. Add that to your ZIP Code, and it’s easier for an unscrupulous shopper to learn even more about you.

 

Don’t Break The Bank

One final thought for a less stressful holiday season. If you’re worried about overextending yourself on gifts or a possible job loss in the coming year, you can now predict what late payments or maxed-out credit balances would do to your credit score. Check out ID Watchdog’s brand new Credit Score Simulator and discover how one late payment or a small lien on your home from a forgotten utility bill can lop dozens of points off your credit score making it tough to get credit when you really need it.

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